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ITCA (GBR) Invitation Coaching at Grafham Water Sailing Club

by Mike Powell 22 Apr 23:05 PDT 20-21 April 2024
ITCA (GBR) Invitation Coaching at Grafham Water - Close Upwind Beat © Ricky O'Kane

The GBR Class Association for Toppers (ITCA-GBR) organised an Invitational Coaching Event at Grafham Water Sailing Club on 20th/21st April where we had 24 very enthusiastic Topper sailors from across the country in attendance looking to develop their racing skills ahead of the upcoming NS4 at Poole YC in May.

This is the 2nd Invitational Coaching event of the year, where Sailors are invited to attend these Training events based upon their recent results in the ITCA GBR National Series and a forward commitment to the class. This is a great opportunity for the sailors to train with others who they are regularly racing with at these events.

The class association arranged for 3 amazing coaches, these being the very experienced Topper Double World Champion head coach Steve Irish who stepping in at the last minute and RTG Midlands Coach Kate Robertson (RYA RTG Midlands Topper Coach along with a superb 2nd place overall at the 2019 Topper World Championships) and Mark Ripley (Ex National level Topper Sailor who has vast experience of coaching Toppers at NS and Regional Level). Steve, Kate and Mark bring with them a wealth of knowledge into the Topper Fleet and with Kate and Mark's recent sailing experience in Toppers, it was guaranteed to give the sailors first class Topper training that they could really benefit from.

Head coach, Steve Irish had formulated a plan along with pre-work that was sent out to all the sailors ahead of the event so they were fully prepared for what the weekend would entail. Grafham Water Sailing Club had been the recent host of the ITCA GBR NS2 race event; however conditions were considerably different. It was now a colder Northerly direction wind ranging from 12 to 18 knots, slightly above forecast.

The plan for the weekend was to ensure all of the sailors got to experience working with all of the coaches, splitting the sailors into groups of 8 so they could focus on their individual activities. Following a short welcoming brief, the coaches were straight into working with the sailors, then it was onto the water for the first activity of upwind tactics and strategy followed by some short course races and then bringing the full group back together and repeating the activity as part of a larger group.

At the halfway stage on the Saturday, it was evident that the Topper sailors were enjoying every single minute of the conditions and the coaching with huge amounts of effort and focus being put in by every one of them.

Into the afternoon and the sailors swapped over coaches to work on downwind strategy and choosing the correct mark. Just to spice it up a little, the coaches adjusted the marks so they were never the same, meaning the sailors really had to think which gate was optimal, depending on wind direction and conditions. The sailors all then reformed into one big group and completed the activity with a lot more congested gate entry, having 24 sailors really enabled the coaches to simulate more realistic race conditions which benefited the sailors considerably.

For Sunday the forecast was very similar to the previous day, following a short briefing it was straight back on the water with sailors swapping coaches again to complete their final set of activities which was starting practise. This was initially played out as small groups followed by rejoining into a single large group. As an added incentive, the coaches decided to impose a 1-point penalty if the sailor was over the line during this activity and this would then be carried over to the afternoon mini race series. This really made the sailors think about start bias and how to best maximise the benefit of their position on the start line, but not being over the line else they would incur the penalty! This had the desired effect with all sailors remaining 100% and no penalties being carried into the afternoon, although there were some who very close, the sailors would argue it was perfect starting.

Into the final session on the Sunday afternoon, the wind dropped a little in strength. The coaches set up a mini championship of 4 races, with 1 discard. All the sailors were keen to put in place all the excellent coaching they had received of the past 2 days and there was some amazingly close racing with Kat Gunn (Midlands) taking the overall honours, just ahead of Jake Davies (Southern) in 2nd, followed by Nathan Clark (Eastern in 3rd).

The enthusiasm showed by the sailors was amazing all weekend, they had a great time working with the coaches and their energy levels remain high and focus continued right until the end of the 2nd day.

A special thanks to all our coaches and volunteer parents/guardians who really made the weekend so much fun and full of learning.

With the Topper ITCA (GBR) National Series 2023-2024 now in full swing where we have seen a increase in numbers attending the events, the next being NS4 at Poole YC on 18th/19th May 2024, entry is open through the ITCA Website (https://www.itca-gbr.co.uk/calendar/). Topper Sailors will be keen to do as well as they can to put themselves in a position to receive an invite to the next ITCA GBR Invitational Coaching which is planned for July at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA).

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